A SCREENPLAY that playwright Tennessee Williams wrote during his heyday in the 1950s, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond has languished, un-filmed and forgotten, until now. However, it's hardly a lost masterpiece—rather, it's a puzzling, flawed script that's given unnecessarily reverential treatment by director Jodie Markell.

The setup: A fabulously wealthy girl with the unlikely name of Fisher Willow (a visibly pregnant Bryce Dallas Howard) enters 1920s Memphis society, despite the fact that her family's been scandalized thanks to her father dynamiting a levee and drowning some townspeople (as fathers are wont to do). Fisher hires poor Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans, handsome and dull and terrible) to be her arm candy at the various balls she attends, she falls for him, he shags some other girl who has the face of an insect, and somewhere along the way she loses one of her priceless teardrop diamond earrings.

Despite being buried under ghoulish makeup, Howard is likeable and committed, allowing you to overlook that she doesn't quite have the gravity to pull off one of Williams' beleaguered Southern belles (throughout, she seems like she's reciting monologues in a high school theater class). Meanwhile, Jimmy is as vacuous a character as has ever been written. He's quiet and mopey—presumably because his dad is a drunk and his mom is in an asylum—but when he goes off to screw Insect Face (honestly, the woman looks like a praying mantis) his character sheds any semblance of believability and transforms into an underwritten, baffling slab of masculinity.

The wonderful Ann-Margret has a couple unimportant scenes, as does a regal Ellen Burstyn as a bedridden junkie, but this movie feels weirdly unfinished, like a first draft that Williams was all too happy to abandon. As the filmmakers' slavishly devoted final product indicates, perhaps abandoning it was the right move.